the pieces of my heart are missing you
Summary: In exchange for the lives of her friends, Lucy makes a deal with Zeref: to spare their lives so he can have the happy family he wanted. The price? Their memories of her are wiped away and it's like she never existed. For one year, she's trapped in the old Heartfilia mansion with nothing but the painful memories of her past while the members of Fairy Tail live blissfully ignorant, until one day, Natsu begins dreaming of a blonde girl with a pink guild mark on her hand.
The Fairy Tail guildhall was destroyed completely. Standing among the rubble, Lucy Heartfilia looked around at her guildmates who were frozen in time, despair etched into her face.
"Once again, you surprise me, Miss Heartfilia." Lucy spun around, her heart pounding in fear as Zeref came into view. There was a pleasant smile on his face but his eyes were cold. "You escaped my spell."
Lucy uncoiled her whip, a low growl rising in her throat. "Let them go."
Zeref waved his hand lazily and the whip flew out of her grasp. "I'm afraid not. They are all going to die here...except for you. Think of it as a reward, for exceeding my expectations, yet again." His lips twitched in a sardonic smile. "You are free to go," He said almost dismissively and then raised an eyebrow. "Unless you would like to stay here and watch them die?"
The glare faded away from Lucy's face and was replaced with pleading. "Don't do this," she begged. "What about the First Master? I thought you loved her."
Zeref's eyes flashed. "Tread carefully, Miss Heartfilia," He warned. "There is nothing between us, not anymore."
"There's Natsu," Lucy continued desperately. "He’s your brother . I thought you wanted to live with him as a family…"
"He doesn't...", Zeref hissed. "And if I don't get to be his family, no one does."
"There must be something you want!"
The anger disappeared from Zeref's face suddenly, and he stared at her with curiosity. "There might be something…" He began slowly and Lucy's heart soared with hope. “There is a spell…that can alter reality as we know it. It could give me the happy ending I want. It, however, requires a willing sacrifice." He eyed her, and Lucy swallowed.
"I'm willing," she said determinedly, but her voice shook. “I’ll do anything to save them. Get on with it!”
Zeref chuckled softly. "It’s not like that. You will be alive, but trapped somewhere you can never make contact with another person again. None of your friends will remember you. They will be living blissful lives, the loved ones they lost will be alive, everything will be perfect …but you lose everything . This spell feeds on lost hope, shattered memories, and broken relationships; all undergone willingly by one person. It will be like a curse, to put it simply."
A lump rose in Lucy's throat. Could she do this? Dying sounded much easier, than being trapped with nothing but the memories of those she loved; while they lived their lives in ignorance of her. Could she do it?
A flash of a familiar grin, a scaly scarf and a warm, loving family who would do anything for her skimmed across her mind.
"Do we have a deal, Miss Heartfilia?" Zeref's voice was smug, like he knew what her answer would be.
Lucy simply nodded.
Zeref murmured under his breath and snapped his fingers. A dark, purple magic circle hovered in the air in front of him. "Your keys, if you please, Miss Heartfilia," He instructed. "Drop them in here."
Lucy nodded again, trying to ignore the ache in her chest as she fought back tears. She would not give Zeref the satisfaction of watching her cry. Plucking her keys from her belt, she dangled them above the circle for a few seconds and when she finally dropped them in, she bit down on her lip so hard she drew blood.
Natsu, Natsu, Natsu , she repeated in her mind, drawing some strength from the name of the person dearest to her.
The minute the keys disappeared into the inky blackness of the circle, Lucy's consciousness faded away, as time itself reset.
And heard a soft whisper in her ear, even curses can be broken.
Lucy woke up in a huge, luxurious bed in an equally gorgeous room. She gazed around blankly for a few minutes, disoriented, and thought this isn't the dark dungeon I was expecting.
And then she realized exactly where she was.
Leaping out of the bed, she ran down familiar corridors and what seemed like dozens of hallways until she reached the entrance doors and pushed them open.
Lucy let out a bitter, broken laugh at what she saw.
The Heartfilia Mansion. Of course she would end up here, this was a curse, after all.
She walked across the huge grounds until she reached the borders. A filmy, sheer mist hung a few feet in front of her, indicating the presence of a barrier.
Slowly, Lucy reached out and touched it.
Instantly, she was blasted backwards and landed in a crumpled heap, her skin singed from where the barrier had shocked her. Out of instinct, Lucy reached for her keys, to call Virgo out for help and then stilled when she remembered that she didn't have them anymore.
She stared blankly ahead for a few minutes and then lowered her head to her knees and cried quietly.
She'd never see any of them again, and she'd just have to live with it.
A year passed, and Lucy never cried again.
Cheers and greetings hailed Natsu and Happy's entrance as they strolled through the doors of the guild. From the bar, Mirajane waved them over, a warm, inviting smile on her face.
"How did the mission go, guys?"
"It was awesome!" Natsu fist pumped the air and Happy added, "We actually got the whole reward this time."
Mira laughed. "No destruction? That's a first. Let me whip up something for you guys. Fire chicken, Natsu?"
"And a fish for me!" Happy added.
Erza made her way over to the bar, followed by Gray. "Natsu, Happy," She greeted them. "I trust the mission went well?"
Natsu nodded in the affirmative.
"You could've waited for us to get back so we could've gone together," Gray prodded him. "We're a team, remember?"
Something nagged at the back of Natsu's mind at Gray's words, but he shook the thought away, allowing an easy smile to light up his face. "It was no big deal, Happy and I had it handled; isn't that right, buddy?"
Erza laughed. "Perhaps it was a good thing. You were busy yesterday, weren't you, Gray?" She teased and Gray flushed.
"What's going on?" Happy asked.
"Gray finally proposed to Juvia."
Happy's eyes went wide with shock but Natsu just chuckled. "Well, it's 'bout time. Where is she?"
"Left on a job this morning with Gajeel, just before you guys got back," Gray answered, his cheeks still a dull red. "They'll be back in a week's time."
Natsu hummed. "Looks like a lot happened, eh?" He shot Gray a sly look. "Am I gonna be best man at the wedding?"
"No way in hell!"
"Mira!" Macao came up to the bar, followed by a timid young girl. "We've got a new recruit!"
"Just a moment!" Mira emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a cloth. She smiled kindly at the girl as she picked up the guild mark stamp. "What's your name, dear?"
Natsu tuned them out and turned to glance around at the rest of the guild. New recruits were common, almost every day in Fairy Tail; ever since they won the Grand Magic Games in X793, making it their third win, three years in a row.
"Where's Zeref?" He asked Erza, after trying to spot his older brother around the guild hall, and failing.
"He went out somewhere with the First Master, I think."
"I know they just got married and all, but why do they have to keep going on dates all the time?"
"You'll understand when you have a special someone of your own someday, Natsu."
"Aren't you and Jellal still-"
"Not. Another. Word."
Their conversation was halted by Mira's cheery voice. "Alright," she asked the new girl. "Where would you like your guild mark to be?"
"On the back of my left hand, please."
Suddenly, the voices and sounds around Natsu faded and began to dull out as a myriad of colors danced across his mind's eye. Golden, brown and a hint of…pink?
"Natsu, Natsu, look!" a sweet, high pitched voice echoed in his ears. "I got my Fairy Tail guildmark!"
He was jolted back to reality and blinked dazedly at Erza, whose eyebrows were raised in concern.
What the hell could that have been?
After a brief inspection of the mansion, Lucy gathered that there was an endless supply of food, clothes and other basic necessities she might need. She felt a bitter kind of amusement at the irony that she had everything….and yet, nothing.
Abandoning the supplies, she went to her bedroom and threw herself face down on the bed.
This was worse than when Fairy Tail had disbanded. Instead of pain and heartbreak, there was a chilling numbness encasing Lucy's body. She felt weary and tired, as if she was losing the will to live.
She didn't eat.
Lucy simply sat on her bed, staring blankly out of the window. The hours flew by, and even when her stomach protested with hunger, she didn't budge.
She was better off dead, anyway.
And then, Lucy wondered, what would Natsu say?
She knew quite well. He'd be absolutely furious . You're taking the coward's way out, Lucy?!; she could almost hear him yelling at her. What the hell?! This isn't like you! Don't you dare. Don't you dare do it or I'll never forgive you!
Slowly, Lucy pushed off the bed and made her way down to the kitchens.
Like this, time passed.
She wished she could forget the sound of his voice.
Wendy walked into the huge library in the Everlue Mansion. "The Rune Knights just picked Duke Everlue up," She told the rest of the team and held up a bag of money. "They left us the reward."
"Great!" Natsu grabbed the bag of money. "Not sure why they were willing to pay us almost a million jewels for beating up an old man and his stooges but I sure as hell ain't complaining."
"Give it here," Erza instructed. "I'll divide it."
As Natsu handed over the money, Gray whistled lowly as he and Happy took in the vast collection of books. "Look at all these," He commented. "Levy would kill to get her hands on them."
"They'll be donated to the public libraries now, so she just might," Happy answered. "I’ll bet there are some pretty rare books in here."
During the fight, some of the books had tumbled to the ground. Amongst the pile, a flash of gold caught Natsu's eye. Walking over, he picked up a book with a golden cover, entitled Daybreak.
His hands shook slightly as his eyes widened.
"You can't burn this book! I won't let you!"
"Still, he was your father! At least you had one!"
"Let's form a team!"
"What the hell?" Natsu whispered.
"Natsu?" Wendy's voice broke into his thoughts. "Are you ready to leave?"
Staring at the book, Natsu made a decision. He quickly pocketed it and turned to Wendy, flashing her an innocent grin.
"Yeah, let's go!"
At first, Lucy tried to forget.
She drowned herself in the books in the large library, spent days tending to the gardens, cleaning the mansion, cooking and baking, just to forget .
It didn't work.
Even if she was too busy to think during the daytime, her dreams were filled with memories. All of the adventures, moments, laughter and tears seemed determined to come back and haunt her.
It hurt. It hurt so much, more than anything she had ever faced before.
One day, she wandered into her father's study. As a child, she had both hated and loved this place; hated it because whenever she went in, her father would drive her away, and loved it because the only family she had left was always there.
The minute she stepped through the doors, her mind was clogged with painful memories.
"But Daddy…it's my birthday..."
"I'm not 'Lucky' Lucy Heartfilia anymore! I'm Lucy of Fairy Tail!"
"I shouldn't try and forget," Lucy murmured. 'Those memories may be painful, but they made me who I am now."
She looked at the skin of her right hand and traced along where the guild mark used to be.
"I may not have the mark anymore, but I'm still Lucy of Fairy Tail."
She stopped trying to forget.
"Natsu, hurry up! We're gonna be late."
"Give me a sec! I can't find my scarf!"
Happy huffed in exasperation but waited patiently enough for Natsu to come out. They were going to pay a visit to Igneel that day…which wouldn't normally be a problem, but they also had a job at exactly 11:15 AM and now it was 10:30 in the morning. They'd be cutting it close.
The Fire Dragon Slayer came running, his trusty scarf wrapped securely around his neck. "Let's go!"
Igneel, Metallicana and Grandine all lived in the East Forest. To prevent the townspeople from seeing them, the Master had cast a protection spell over the entire forest, hiding them from non magical people. Weisslogia and Skiadrum, the White and Shadow dragons lived near Crocus, so they could be close to their respective dragon slayers.
"Igneel!" Natsu hollered once they spotted the Fire Dragon King curled up in a patch of sunlight. His enormous ears twitched at the sound of Natsu's voice and he sat up.
"Natsu," He rumbled, a large dragonish smirk spreading across his face. "How nice of you to grace me with your presence."
Natsu rolled his eyes. "Lay off, old man."
"Such disrespect." Igneel turned to Happy and his slanted eyes softened. "It's good to see you."
"Oi, why are you so nice to him and not me?!"
"He likes me better," Happy said flippantly. "Duh."
"Traitors, the both of you."
Igneel chuckled, and then frowned, peering at Natsu. "Are you alright, son? You look pale."
Before Natsu could reply, Happy spoke up. "He's been out of it lately. He couldn't even find his scarf earlier!"
Igneel looked at Natsu inquiringly. Natsu hesitated.
He wasn't sure if he should tell anyone about the strange dreams and visions he had been having. They might brush it off, or worse, think he’s crazy. And somehow, Natsu couldn't shake the feeling that this wasn't just his imagination. That girl, from his dreams…she was important.
"It's nothing," He said finally. "Really."
That girl, he had to find out who she was. Natsu clutched absentmindedly at his scarf, rubbing the coarse material between his fingers and that's when it happened.
"That scarf was knitted for you, by a woman named Anna."
With a jolt, he was brought back to reality. What the hell? This time it had been Rogue's voice. He had talked to the Shadow Dragon Slayer a few times, but he had never said anything like that. Really, what the hell?
"Natsu?" Happy asked worriedly.
Natsu put on a smile. "It's almost time for our job, Happy."
Over the year, writing became Lucy's solace.
She didn't write fiction and stories, like she once did. This time, she wrote about every single adventure she'd had ever since joining Fairy Tail. She found herself filling pages and pages with descriptions of her friends and chuckled as she remembered the old saying.
If a writer loves you, you will never die.
The statement had never seemed so true, till now. Her friends became immortalized with every word she wrote. She filled up the parchment, etching into memory Gray's sardonic laughter and low, gravelly voice, Wendy's kindness and gentle manner, Erza's bravery and strength, Carla's sharp wit and no-nonsense behavior, Happy's cheer and fun filled nature and Natsu…
And when it came to writing about Natsu, Lucy just couldn't.
It wasn't that she couldn't find the right words. Quite the opposite actually: sentences, paragraphs and phrases all sprung to mind at the mere thought of him. That wasn't the problem. While writing about the others, Lucy found some peace. It was like a balm for her soul. But when it came to Natsu…each word drove a splinter into her heart, sharply and cruelly. Writing about him hurt , and it was the worst kind of pain ever.
But still, she wrote, because that was the only way she could preserve his memory perfectly.
With every word she put down, her hand shook, ink spilled and her heart ached. Writing about Natsu was different and Lucy knew quite well why.
Still, she wrote. It was the only way.
Gray was at the request board, hunting for a new mission when Natsu came running up to him.
"Can we talk?"
The Ice Wizard looked confused. "Sure, what's up?"
Natsu glanced around. "Not here. The infirmary, come on."
Once they were in the privacy of the empty room, Gray crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow at Natsu. "What's going on?"
Natsu exhaled. "Do you feel like…something has been missing, lately?"
His words made no sense to his ears, but it was the only way he could express what he’d been feeling.
Gray blinked. "You feel that way too?"
Natsu sighed in relief. Good, he wasn't the only one. "So you do?"
"Yeah…it's weird, and Erza and Wendy noticed it too. It feels like something or someone is missing from our group. From our lives."
"Have you been having any strange dreams or anything? Visions, maybe?" Natsu questioned.
Gray frowned and shook his head. "Can't say I have, why?"
"Because I have. I get these weird flashback thingies during random moments. Sometimes, when someone says something, it triggers it. Dunno what is causing them, or why."
Gray was genuinely curious now. "What have you been dreaming about?"
Natsu paused and Gray saw something flash in his eyes.
"A girl. I've been dreaming about a girl."
It was July 7th.
Gathering a bouquet of white lilies from the gardens, Lucy made her way over to the spot where her mother's grave used to be. The grave had been relocated, but this was better than nothing.
Setting the flowers gently on the ground, Lucy knelt beside them.
"Hey, mom," She said softly. "It's been a while since I visited your actual grave and I'm sorry for that…though things are pretty much out of my control right now. I should've written to you, as I always have, but," She sucked in a breath shakily. "It brings back too many memories. I've been trying to be strong, trying to cope, but sometimes...sometimes, it just hurts too much.
"Mom, I had to give up my keys. Can you ever forgive me for that? I should have been stronger, I should have fought harder, but-" A single tear rolled down her cheek. "I couldn't. I was too weak. Forgive me, Mom. I had to do it-I had to save them. I don't think I could ever regret saving them…saving Natsu."
The tears were coming quickly now. "Mom, I love him. I love him, so much. And now, I'll never get to tell him. He-he doesn't even remember me. I wish I could have told him," She choked out. "I wish I could have told him, at least once-"
Lucy knelt there for what seemed like hours, shaking uncontrollably. He would never remember her, none of them would. Natsu would never remember her-and he would never know, either, just how much she cared about him.
It was July 7th.
Natsu and Wendy were on their way to Crocus, to visit Sting and Rogue. It was kind of a tradition of theirs that they had been doing for goodness knows how long, every year without fail.
When it came to July 7th, Natsu always got this strange, empty feeling in his heart. Which was weird, because he had everything he needed, he shouldn't be feeling that way, but there it was. Wendy had confessed to feeling the same way and though Gajeel never mentioned it, Natsu was sure he went through the same thing.
The Iron Dragon Slayer wasn't coming with them that day. Levy was almost seven months pregnant and being as protective as he was, Gajeel wouldn't let her out of his sight for a minute. It led to a lot of fights between them, as Levy was fed up with his smothering ("I'm pregnant , not breakable, you dummy!") and Gajeel was just too stubborn about it all ("Say what you like, Shrimp, I ain't buyin' it.").
And so, Natsu and Wendy were travelling by themselves to Crocus for the first time in, well, forever.
After being greeted by the Twin Dragons (boisterously on Sting's part, cordially on Rogue's) Natsu glanced around quickly and grinned when he spotted Yukino helping out at the bar. Slinking away from the group, he ran to her.
"Hello, Natsu-sama," She greeted him, unfailingly polite as always. "Can I help you?"
"Actually, yeah," Natsu replied. He had thought about it quite a bit, and figured that the Celestial Spirits might be able to help him with the dreams and visions… not to mention the nagging voice at the back of his head insisting that he seek out their help. "Do you think I could talk to one of your spirits? I've been having…a bit of a magic problem and I think they might be able to help."
Yukino looked a bit confused but nodded. "I'll call Leo out, he should be able to help you."
Yukino had held all 12 keys of the Zodiac for as long as anyone could remember. It earned her recognition over Fiore, as well as in the Grand Magic Games every year.
"Open, Gate of the Lion: Leo!"
As Natsu watched her speak the incantation and slash the key through the air, the nagging feeling was back. This was wrong , somehow.
The head of the zodiac appeared and performed a sweeping bow. "How may I help you, Yukino-sama?"
"Natsu-sama would like to speak with you," Yukino nodded in Natsu's direction. "I'll leave you both be."
As she walked away, Leo turned to Natsu, raising an eyebrow. "What's wrong?"
Natsu shifted awkwardly. "Um...I've been having these dreams. Visions," He elaborated. "For a couple of months now, I guess…? I was wondering if you guys could help me…since you're all knowing or whatever."
Leo looked intrigued. "Would you care to describe them?"
Natsu gave him a brief summary of the visions and flashbacks, making sure to describe the blonde girl as best as he could. Once he was done, Leo nodded.
"You're not the only one, Natsu," He said. "The Spirits have been experiencing things similar to your visions and they've plagued us for quite some time."
Natsu let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "You believe me, then."
"Yes. We strongly suspect that this girl is-or was a Celestial Spirit Mage. Why else would we be dreaming of her? She might be a previous master lost to us, perhaps in death."
A shiver went down Natsu's spine at the mention of death. "She can't be," He argued. "And even if she was, why can't I remember her? I can't even remember her name, or if she's a Fairy Tail member! I have to know! I have no clue who she is, but this girl, she's-"
"-important." Leo finished in a whisper. Natsu looked at him steadily and nodded.
"I'll have Grandpa Crux look into it," Leo said after a lengthy pause. "I assume you'll be doing your own investigation?"
Natsu nodded curtly. "Yeah." His jaw clenched.
"I will find her. I have to."
The night sky was clear, starry and breathtakingly beautiful. The sea was calm, gentle waves lapping at the shore. Lucy looked around, a small smile on her face that vanished when she realized where exactly her dream had taken her.
Hargeon. How cruel, to dream of the place where all her adventures had begun. Someone up there surely hated her.
"Who are you?"
Lucy stiffened and her breath hitched. That voice. She'd recognize it anywhere.
She turned around, and sure enough, Natsu was there. Tears burned in her eyes. If it wasn't enough that he'd shown up in her dream, to add salt to the wound, there was not a spark of recognition in his eyes.
Lucy really wanted this dream to be over. And done with.
"Who are you?" Natsu repeated and took a cautious step towards her. "Why do you keep appearing in my dreams?"
Something inside Lucy snapped at that.
"Why do I keep appearing in your dreams?!" She burst out, feeling her voice break. Lucy let out a bitter laugh. "Why do you?! I want nothing than to forget about you all! I thought I could handle the pain but I can't. Just-" A sob escaped and Lucy swallowed thickly. "Just go away, I can't deal with this!"
Natsu's eyes softened and Lucy's heart skipped a beat at the somewhat gentle look on his face. "Tell me your name." He insisted.
"Lucy," She whispered finally. "My name is Lucy."
"Lucy…" Natsu murmured and Lucy's breath caught at the sound of her name on his lips.
"Please…please don't forget about me!"
Natsu woke up with a start, and clutched at his right arm. His guildmark felt like it was on fire, and coming from a mage who could eat fire, this was serious.
Happy was jolted awake. Sleepily, he glanced at his partner. "Everything alright, Natsu? Did you have a nightmare?"
Natsu didn't reply, breathing heavily as his grip on his arm slackened. The dream had been vivid, so much more than the others. It made him wonder if it was a dream, after all.
"Lucy…" He muttered. "She said her name was Lucy..."
"Natsu, where did you hear that name?"
This got his attention. Natsu turned slowly and looked at Happy, who was startled and frightened. "What?" He whispered.
"I-I've been having these dreams," Happy stammered. "About a girl, whose name is Lucy. I thought they were just dreams and I didn't want to tell you guys in case you thought I was going crazy-"
"You had them too," Natsu said. He quickly got out of his hammock, stumbling in his hurry (why had his fourteen year old self thought this was a good idea again?). "Happy, what does it mean?"
Just who was she?
And that's when it happened.
Images, a blur of colors and noises flew across his mind.
"Hey there, my name is Lucy!"
"Natsu, Natsu, look! I got my Fairy Tail guildmark!"
"Don't ask me to leave, please…I love Fairy Tail!"
"It's always more fun when we're together."
"I believe in you. I always have, from the moment I joined the guild."
"Please…protect the future."
As the flow of memories stopped, Natsu let out a shaky gasp and stumbled, falling against the wall. He glanced at Happy, whose eyes were wide. It was clear that the Exceed had experienced the same thing he had.
For a minute, there was silence, only broken by their combined breathing.
Then, Natsu exploded.
"What the hell is going on, Happy?" He roared, standing up straight. "Where's Lucy? Why can't anyone remember her? Hell, why couldn't we remember? And why the hell is Zeref my brother here?!"
"Zeref!" Happy exclaimed. "Of course!"
Pausing his tirade, Natsu shot Happy a confused look. The Exceed continued.
"He must have done something to her! Remember that spell we were trapped under, in the final battle? Lucy must have escaped it, like in Tartaros."
"She must've made a deal with Zeref," Natsu realized. "To get him to spare us, she must have…"
"Right," Happy agreed. "All Zeref wanted was to create a new reality, where the two of you were family. He must have used her to do that, and that's why no one remembers her, like she doesn't exist."
"Then we know what to do." Natsu slung his coat over his shoulders and wrapped his scarf around his neck.
"We go get some answers from that bastard."
"You mean right now? Hold on-Natsu, wait!"
Zeref woke up with a start when he heard the loud pounding on the door.
For a moment he laid there, blinking up at the ceiling, hoping that whoever it was would go away. When the pounding didn’t cease, he groaned and rolled out of bed, careful not to disturb Mavis, who was miraculously still fast asleep.
When he opened the front door, the first thing he registered was Natsu and Happy on his doorstep, Natsu’s face twisted into an angry scowl. Zeref sighed.
“Natsu, it’s the middle of the night. What on Earthland is-“
He didn’t get to finish the sentence as Natsu suddenly caught hold of him by the collar of his shirt and slammed him into the door. Zeref gasped as his head struck against the wood. He stared at Natsu in amazement.
“You bastard ,” Natsu snarled and a cold feeling trickled down Zeref’s spine. Something was terribly wrong.
“Where is she?” Natsu demanded. “ What have you done with her ?!”
Zeref’s worst fear was confirmed.
Still, he put on a confused façade and pretended to struggle in Natsu’s hold. “’She?’ Natsu, I have no idea who you’re talking about.”
“Don’t lie to me,” Natsu said, his voice a low growl. “I know what you did. You cast some kind of spell, that took away our memories and gave us new ones. I know you used Lucy to do it. I know you have her locked away somewhere. Even if you don’t tell me where she is, I will find her and then we’ll come back and pound you into dust!”
This time, Zeref couldn’t hold back the fear that showed plainly on his face. Natsu knew. Happy, too. They had their memories back.
How? The spell Zeref used was infallible. He had done everything perfectly, the new world he had created had been holding up perfectly for the past year, so why ? How was this possible?
Was the connection between his brother and Lucy Heartfilia stronger than he thought?
Schooling his face into a neutral mask, Zeref spoke calmly. “I really do have no idea about what you mean,” he flexed his fingers and sent Natsu flying to the ground. “You should go home and get some rest, Natsu,” he continued in a serene tone. “You’ll feel better in the morning.”
As Natsu struggled to sit up, Happy suddenly rounded on Zeref, his large eyes shining with tears. “You’re lying,” Happy declared. “You can’t fool us, not anymore. Natsu and I will get to the bottom of this, one way or another.
The sick feeling boiling in Zeref’s gut continued to intensify as Natsu and his feline friend left. It was only two of them who had their memories back. Surely, it wouldn’t make a difference to the rest of the world.
Somehow, Zeref could not manage to convince himself of the fact.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Happy reprimanded Natsu as they headed back home.
Natsu shot him a startled look. “ What ?”
“You just let Zeref know that we’re on to him!” Happy pointed out. “What if he tries to do something now?”
“You backed me up!” Natsu protested.
Happy huffed. “Only ‘cause he wouldn’t stop lying and it really didn’t matter at that point anyway! And it was no use, he still refused to give us answers.”
“It’s okay, we’ll figure it out some other way.”
Natsu thought for a moment before answering. “Levy. She’s the smartest person in the guild, she’s sure to have some answers.”
“Do you think she’ll believe us?” Happy asked.
“Probably not. But we have to try, for Lucy.”
When they reached their house and went to bed, Natsu stared up at the ceiling unblinkingly while Happy slept soundly, curled into his side.
Where was Lucy? Was she in pain? Was she suffering? The very thought made Natsu’s blood boil. He’d sworn to himself that he’d protect her, protect everyone , but he had failed and Lucy paid the price for it.
“Don’t worry, Lucy,” Natsu whispered into the darkness. “We will find you, we just need some more time.”
He didn’t care what it took, or what he had to sacrifice. Lucy needed him…needed them .
“You saved us all, now it’s time for us to save you.”
The next day, while Gajeel was out on an errand for the Master, Natsu and Happy visited the modest apartment Gajeel and Levy shared.
Levy, who was eight months pregnant and barred from going on any missions, much to her displeasure, looked pleasantly surprised to see them and ushered them in cordially. Once they were seated in the living room, she asked after their reason for visiting.
“Something’s not right,” Natsu blurted out. Levy only looked confused and he did his best to explain himself. “Look…have you felt like anything’s different? Like something is seriously wrong with, er, everything?”
Levy looked startled. “A little,” she admitted cautiously. “I figured it was all in my head, though.”
“It isn’t,” Natsu insisted. “That’s because none of this is real ,” he gestured around them. “Everything is one big stupid lie. None of our memories are real.”
“What on Earthland do you mean?”
Just like that, the whole story came pouring out.
Natsu and Happy took turns in telling it and Levy heard what they had to say in silence. When they finished, she leaned into her chair and swiped a hand across her forehead.
“I don’t believe that you’re lying-“ Levy began slowly. Natsu and Happy sighed in relief.
“-but Natsu, all of this sounds impossible . I’ve never known anyone called Lucy, there has never been a war like the one you spoke of. Fiore has been at peace for almost four hundred years, now! What kind of spell could just rewrite history itself and erase a person’s very existence? It isn’t possible.”
“Zeref could do it,” Natsu said darkly. “You have no idea how powerful he is.”
“Natsu, he is your brother .”
“No, he isn’t,” Natsu snapped. “My only family is Fairy Tail. And even that isn’t complete without Lucy in it. Please , Levy,” he pleaded. “You have to believe us.”
Levy pursed her lips and remained silent for a long moment. Then-
“I’ll help you find what you need.”
“Does that mean you believe us?” Happy asked.
She shook her head. “This…I’ll need a little more time to process it,” she admitted. At the crestfallen looks on their faces, Levy hastened to defend herself. “Think about what you’re asking me to believe, guys. You’re basically telling me that everything I know is a lie! I mean in this previous world you speak of, are Gajeel and I even a couple?”
“No clue,” Natsu answered truthfully. He hadn’t gotten much time to speak to either Gajeel or Levy once Fairy Tail had been re-established and he certainly hadn’t even been bothered about their relationship status. Now he wished he had paid a little more attention.
Though honestly speaking, Natsu didn’t think he was very good at spotting things like that.
Levy sagged. “See? Can’t you understand why I don’t want to believe it? If what you say is true it means Gajeel and I-our entire relationship is built on a lie. Our baby -“ her voice broke as she placed a shaking hand over her belly and Natsu immediately felt like the worst person in the world.
“I’m sorry,” he said wretchedly. “Levy, please don’t cry, I-“
Levy shook her head, bravely blinking back tears. “It’s okay. I said I’ll help you and I will. Just tell me what you need me to do.”
Natsu and Happy shared a glance.
“We need information,” Happy explained. “Anything about a spell or curse that could do something as powerful as this, about how to break such a spell.”
“We need you to help us find it,” Natsu added.
Levy nodded curtly. Natsu helped her stand and then she led them to a storage room that was positively overflowing with books. Levy pointed to the highest shelf.
“All my books on ancient spells and curses are up there,” she said. “Be careful, some of them are practically falling to pieces.”
Happy brought down the enormous tomes, one by one and the trio began to go through with them. Natsu and Happy were sprawled on the floor, squinting at the faded pages. Levy sat in a chair, wearing her gale-force reading glasses as she flipped through the books written in ancient languages.
A couple of hours passed and just as Natsu and Happy were beginning to feel fatigued and irritable, Levy gave a short cry. “Guys, come look at this.”
Natsu and Happy hurried over and frowned at the strange text. “I don’t get it,” Natsu said after a pause. “It looks like a bunch of squiggly lines to me.” Lucy would probably understand it, he thought, with a sharp pang of pain.
Levy huffed in exasperation. “Here, I’ll translate it. It says that there is a way to do the impossible…to rewrite history as we know it, to reset time…it requires a willing sacrifice.”
Sacrifice. Natsu’s head spun and he had to grab on to the back of Levy’s chair to keep himself from falling to his knees. Beside him, Happy let out a despairing whimper.
Levy glanced up at them and her eyes widened at the anguished looks on their faces. “No, no , Natsu! Not like that. ‘Sacrifice’ in the sense means that they would have had to give up their happiness, their friends, family, relationships…everything that made them happy. They would be consigned to live in loneliness and solitude for the rest of their lives, never to form a bond with a living person ever again and they would be tortured mentally with the memories of what they lost. They would be trapped in a prison of their own making.”
Natsu relaxed, but only slightly. Lucy wasn’t dead, but she was suffering. Suffering so that all of them would live. The thought made bile rise in his throat, at the reminder of all the happy times he and the rest of the guild, the rest of the world had had while she was locked away in some prison, thinking there was no hope for her. How could he have been so happy? Why didn’t he realize that something was wrong sooner?
Levy continued to explain. “According to this book, the spell requires a lot of power and can only be cast by a wizard of great strength-“
“Seems to fit Zeref perfectly,” Happy interjected. At Levy’s annoyed look, he became silent immediately.
“This spell feeds off…well, negativity, you could say. It’s the darkest kind of magic. It draws its power solely from the person who sacrificed themselves, drawing sustenance from the broken hopes, lost dreams and sorrow of the person. It weighs them down and burdens them until they lose any trace of optimism and hope they have.”
Something cold and icy gripped Natsu’s heart as he remembered the Lucy in his dream, the one who ordered him to leave her because she couldn’t stand seeing his face, because it hurt her too much. She’d had none of her trademark cheerful nature. It had been like looking at the hollow shell of a person.
“How do we break the spell?” Natsu asked.
Levy shook her head. “This spell has never been used in all of history…until now, if what you guys are saying is true. There has never been anyone powerful enough to cast it. It was just a theory, to be exact. In other words, there are no ways to break the spell and I suspect it’s because nobody ever suspected that it could ever be used.”
Happy looked ready to burst into tears. “Then there’s no way to save Lucy?”
Levy looked sorrowful. “I’m sorry, Happy-“ she began.
“ No! ” Natsu snapped, startling both of them. “I won’t accept that! Lucy gave up her entire life to save us, we can’t just leave her…wherever she is! We have to get her back!”
“I can keep looking,” Levy offered. “I doubt I’ll find anything, but…”
Natsu nodded. “Thanks, Levy. Happy and I will try and find her ourselves, okay, buddy?” he glanced down at Happy.
The Exceed nodded. “Aye,” he croaked out.
“Wait, Natsu,” Levy interjected. “Your goal is to break the spell, isn’t it?”
Natsu looked confused. “Yeah, that’s what I said.”
“Then you have to understand that if you do that, not everything will go back to the way it was. We’ll all get back our memories, but whatever lives we’ve formed for ourselves in the past year will remain the same.”
Natsu shrugged. “That’s not a problem. Once everyone gets back their memories they’ll turn on Zeref and we’ll make him pay.”
Happy seemed to remember something at that moment. “Levy…” he began slowly. “What about those who were dead?”
“What do you mean?”
“Those who were dead before the spell and came back to life because of what Zeref did.”
Levy looked puzzled. Natsu and Happy had only told her the bare bones of the story so she didn’t know about anything else. “Well, if anyone did come back to life…I suppose they’d go back to being dead.”
For a moment, Natsu didn’t understand.
Then, he remembered.
He remembered the dragons that currently lived in the East Forest and near Crocus.
He thought of Igneel.
They’d go back to being dead.
They’d go back to being dead.
They’d go back to being dead.
Natsu barely made it out of the apartment in time.
Collapsing to his knees on the doorstep, Natsu hunched over as his body began to heave with sobs. Tears streamed down his face relentlessly and all he could think of was the day Igneel died. The way his broken body, torn apart by Acnologia, crashed to the ground and vanished before Natsu could even say goodbye to him. The unrelenting pain that had plagued him for months afterward, never quite disappearing; just fading to a dull ache in his chest.
And now he was going to have to lose Igneel all over again.
“Natsu?” Happy came running out, looking worried. When he saw Natsu, his face crumpled and his eyes filled with tears. He ran into Natsu’s arms, pressing his cheek to his chest.
“It’s okay,” Happy mumbled between sobs. “I’m here.”
“If we break the spell, then-“ Natsu couldn’t finish his sentence as another sob cut him off. “Igneel-“
Happy nodded and said nothing, waiting until Natsu calmed down a bit.
“Natsu,” he began hesitantly. “You know this Igneel isn’t real, right? He’s just something that Zeref cooked up.”
“I know that!” Natsu snapped and quickly softened when he saw Happy’s stricken face. “I know,” he repeated. “But it-it just feels like he’s real.”
Happy bit his lip. “If we don’t break the curse,” he said slowly. “Then maybe Igneel could-“
For a moment, Natsu looked like he was considering it. Then he shook his head frantically.
“No, no. We can’t do that, Happy! We can’t…” Natsu paused, staring down at his hands, splayed flat on the floor. He furiously tried to blink his tears away. “We can’t just leave Lucy like that. You know that.”
Happy nodded solemnly.
“Can we, uh,” Natsu scrubbed at his face, rising. “Can we just go to the guild?”
By the time they made it to the guild, Natsu had sufficiently calmed down and managed to rid his face of any evidence of tears. He took a seat at the back while Happy went to get a fish from Mira.
Natsu looked around the guild. Everyone looked so peaceful and happy, laughing and chattering without a care in the world. Just a year ago, though, they’d been at war and they lost. But now, it’s like none of that ever happened.
This was what Lucy had given up her happiness for. To achieve peace. But none of it was real. The minute Natsu had gotten his memories back, he’d ceased to be at peace. He was filled with agitation and anxiety, his mind plagued with worry over Lucy.
Was that what would happen to the rest of them when the spell was broken?
A burst of laughter startled him from his thoughts. Natsu glanced to his right. A few tables away, Gray and Juvia were seated on a bench, practically glued together. They were smiling at each other, the engagement ring on Juvia’s hand glittering in the sunlight.
Natsu’s brow furrowed. He didn’t know anything about Gray and Juvia’s relationship, one year ago, he had only been focused on the war; not caring much about anything else. He’d certainly never cared about the status of their relationship. But he wasn’t blind, either and he knew for a fact that they were never this close before.
Would they still be this close when the spell was broken?
Natsu suddenly thought of Zeref and the First Master, then. He knew that during the war, Mavis’ actual body had been freed thanks to Cana. And of course, now, Zeref had manipulated her into thinking she was in love with him. Natsu felt a little sick and a new surge of hatred for Zeref rose in him because how dare he . How dare he twist and turn their lives as if they were... pawns for him to play with?! And how could Natsu have been so blind for so long?
He had to break the spell. No matter the cost to him or anyone else.
Zeref had to be stopped. Lucy had to be freed.
Natsu didn’t care if it was supposed to be impossible.
Defying the odds had always been in his nature, after all.
Natsu opened his eyes. He was standing in the ruins of what once used to be Magnolia. This was what had happened during the final battle, he remembered. But why was he dreaming of this?
Footsteps sounded behind him. Natsu turned to see Lucy standing among the rubble, gazing at him steadily. His heart lurched with joy and a large grin spread across his face.
“Luce!” He ran to her and took her hands in his. She didn’t move, continuing to stare at him.
“This…isn’t real,” Lucy said at last, a strange note in her voice, as if she was trying to convince herself of the fact. “You’re not here, you can’t be, you can’t remember…”
“Lucy,” Natsu gripped her hands tighter. “This is me. C’mon, have I ever lied to you before? This is real!”
“ No! ” Lucy wrenched herself away, spinning around, clutching at her ears. “Just leave! Haven’t you tortured me enough?! There’s no possible way you can remember who I am! Quit taunting me!”
She sounded so broken and defeated and Natsu felt his heart hurt for her. “Luce, please,” he pleaded. “You have to listen to me. You have to help me. Tell me where you are.”
Lucy let out a choked sob. “What’s the use?” she buried her face in her hands, her voice coming out muffled. “This isn’t real. You aren’t real.”
Natsu threw up his hands in frustration. He had no idea how to convince her that this was the truth. If only Happy were here…
He was beginning to feel alarmed. He had never seen Lucy like this, so full of despair, so utterly hopeless, that she refused to see what was right in front of her. Lucy had always been the one to raise their spirits, to give them hope when there was none. Seeing her like this was almost frightening.
Natsu took another step forward. “Lucy, listen to me,” he began and then a strong wind blew around them, blowing his scarf into his face and whipping through his hair. Natsu blinked harshly against the wind and when he opened his eyes again, Lucy was moving rapidly away from him.
“Lucy!” He shouted. The wind grew stronger, evolving into a storm and his voice could barely be heard over it. “Lucy!” he tried again, but it was too late.
Lucy had disappeared.
The wind suddenly vanished and that’s when Natsu woke up.
Lucy woke up with a start, clutching at the sweat-soaked bed sheets as tears streamed down her face. She slumped back against the pillows, drawing in heavy breaths as she tried to calm down.
When her breathing regulated, she realized that she could hear rain pounding outside and wind lashing against the windows. Frowning in confusion, she went to the window and stared at the storm raging outside in astonishment.
In the year she had spent trapped in the mansion, it had never rained. The weather had been perfectly calm, neither too windy; nor too sunny. It had never rained like this before.
Seized by a sudden, mad impulse, Lucy ran out of the front doors and into the rain. She was soaked in minutes, the thin nightgown she was wearing sticking to her body.
Lucy closed her eyes, tilting her head upwards. If she’d thought that the dream in which she met Natsu in Hargeon was painful, she was sorely wrong. This one was worse. It had been so horrible, dreaming up the lie that Natsu remembered, that he knew who she was. For it was surely impossible. The spell had held up for a year now, there was no reason to for it to start faltering.
Why was she having these dreams?
More importantly, how did she stop them?
If I have to see him one more time, knowing that I’ll never truly get to be with him in real life, it might just break me, Lucy thought dully, opening her eyes. She stared up at the sky. The rain was beginning to cease, the cloud retreating and the sun slowly came out. It was dawn.
Suddenly, Lucy squinted her eyes and stood on her tip toes, peering up at the sky, at the great dome shaped barrier that surrounded the mansion. Was she imagining things, or…?
There were large, purple colored cracks in the dome.
“Happy!” Natsu shook his friend urgently awake, casting a glance at the sky outside. It was dawn. “Happy, wake up!”
Happy opened his eyes with a groan. “Natsu, what’s going on? It’s barely morning.”
“I saw her. I saw Lucy!”
That got Happy’s attention. He sat up rapidly. “Wait, really? How? Where?”
“I dreamt about her,” Natsu said. “I saw her and I talked to her…it was so weird , Happy. We were in Magnolia during the final battle, for some reason.”
“Was Lucy okay?”
Natsu sobered. “No,” he said heavily. “Happy, you should’ve seen her…I’ve never seen Lucy like that. She was so broken . And I couldn’t help her,” his voice became choked up. “I couldn’t do anything. She wouldn’t believe that I remembered. And she didn’t tell me where the hell she is, either.”
“Are you sure it was really her?” Happy asked cautiously. “What if Zeref was messing with your mind?”
Natsu shook his head stubbornly. “No. I know Luce, Happy. I’d know if it wasn’t her.”
“We need to find her,” Happy said decisively. “You heard what Levy said…she said Lucy would lose all of her hope. We can’t let that happen, Natsu! We need to find her, now.”
Natsu began to think. He sat down cross legged on the floor. “Levy said that Lucy would be ‘trapped in a prison of her own making’. What d’you think that means?”
“Maybe she chose her prison?”
“That doesn’t sound right.”
“Or maybe…” Happy’s eyes lit up. “Maybe the spell trapped her someplace she was familiar with, a place that was like a prison to her.”
Natsu jumped to his feet. “Lucy’s old home,” he almost shouted. “That huge mansion, do you remember, Happy? The one her old man lived in before he lost all his money. Lucy hated that place.”
“Wasn’t it torn down?”
Natsu waved his hand impatiently. “The spell changed a lot of things. Maybe it rebuilt the mansion, or something.”
Happy began to look excited. “The mansion was in Acalypha, right? Let’s go there now!”
“Yeah…” Natsu began but then stopped cold; something else that Levy said coming back to him. He took a deep breath.
“There’s something I gotta do first.”
“Igneel?” Natsu’s voice cracked slightly as he ran through the East Forest, calling out to his father. “Igneel, where are you?”
Just as he entered the large clearing where Igneel usually took his naps, the Fire Dragon appeared in the sky, descending to the ground. Natsu took a step back to allow him to land, and swallowed a lump in his throat.
“Natsu, good to see you,” Igneel greeted him with a smile and Natsu felt his heart twist a bit further. “Where’s Happy?”
“He’s um, getting ready for a job,” Natsu muttered. He stared down at his sandals. He hated lying to his dad, even though he knew that this really wasn’t Igneel. “I came to say goodbye.”
“Since when do you bother saying goodbye?” Igneel teased.
Natsu shrugged, trying to look casual. Clearly, he failed because Igneel’s smile vanished and he looked concerned.
“Son, is everything alright?”
No, Natsu wanted scream. I have to leave you, I have to let you go, again . I have to lose you again…
Natsu tried to speak, but words failed him.
Screw it, he thought and ran forward to hug Igneel, wrapping his arms around the dragon’s huge leg. Igneel grunted in surprise, jerking slightly, but Natsu paid it no mind; clinging to him tightly, tears streaming down his cheeks.
He pressed his face against Igneel’s scales. The fiery warmth that emanated from the dragon’s body would’ve burned any human, but to Natsu it was a comfort. He remained unmoving for a few moments, trying to hold on to the precious few memories he had of Igneel as closely as possible.
“Natsu,” Igneel sounded really concerned, then. “Natsu, what’s wrong?”
Natsu shook his head and reluctantly pulled away. The sight of the tears on his son’s cheeks alarmed Igneel even further. He bent his large head, nuzzling Natsu slightly as a gesture of comfort.
“Son, tell me what’s wrong,” Igneel insisted and Natsu’s heart broke further. He wished Igneel would stop calling him that. It made saying goodbye all the more painful.
“I have to go,” he managed to get out. His chest hurt, leaving Igneel seemed to cause a physical ache that encompassed his entire body. “I love you, Dad.”
Igneel tried to call him back, but Natsu hightailed it out of the East Forest, his tears coming even faster.
Happy was waiting for him near their cottage. He looked at Natsu’s broken expression in sorrow and asked,
“Did you say goodbye?”
Natsu shook his head.
He knew that if he had said goodbye, he would’ve never left.
When it was noon, Lucy climbed onto the roof of the mansion so that she could examine the barrier more closely.
Since the time she had first seen the cracks, their number seemed to have increased tenfold. The enormous dome was peppered with them, their purple color looking eerie against the blue of the sky.
Lucy couldn’t understand it. First the storm, and now the cracks…why was this happening now, after all this time? Absolutely nothing this extraordinary had happened during the past year. It didn’t make sense.
Was the spell beginning to weaken? The thought made Lucy’s heart pound a little faster. It was true that Zeref was the most powerful mage around, that any spell he cast had little chance of failing…but what if for once, the odds were against him? What would happen if the spell broke? Even if Lucy was free to leave the Heartfilia mansion, would her friends still remember her? Would there still be a place for her in the world?
Lucy shook her head quickly, annoyed with herself. There’s no use thinking like that. False hope is worse than no hope…and after all this time, I should know better than to hope. This is probably just a slight malfunction. For all I know, the cracks in the dome could be gone by tomorrow. Stop hoping, Lucy! It’s useless!
And anyway, the world was probably better off without her. For once, Fiore was at peace…according to what Zeref had said, anyway. Everyone was happy, there was no more suffering. That was what she had sacrificed herself for, right?
Better the suffering of one person than that of the whole world, Lucy told herself. Just face it. You’re stuck here forever, and nothing’s going to change that.
Just stop hoping.
The train ride to Acalypha was silent.
For once, Natsu didn’t complain about having to use transportation, instead sticking his head out of the window, trying to distract himself from his uneasy stomach. Happy sat by his side silently, sensing that Natsu didn’t want to talk.
Natsu was at war with his emotions. One part of him could feel nothing but pain, the pain over Igneel that somehow felt far more devastating than before. And the other part was nothing but pure excitement, the thought of seeing Lucy again making the blood in his veins boil hot and sing with joy.
He recalled the first time he’d known that Lucy meant a lot more to him than just a friend or a partner. It had been when Future Rogue had killed the future version of Lucy, impaling her through the chest with his shadows. He remembered the helplessness he’d felt, the rage and the heartbreak.
He remembered crawling to her body after the battle and sobbing over it.
Natsu had known then that something was different. It was true that he would mourn the death of any of his friends, but this wasn’t the same. He knew that almost losing Lucy had changed something, had changed the way he thought and felt about her. He hadn’t understood it. He couldn’t have, it was so surreal and unlike anything he’d ever felt before.
Natsu still wasn’t sure that he understood it.
All he knew was that he wanted to protect her at all costs, to be with her always and to always make sure that she was happy.
He’d failed in all three things.
Perhaps now, he could make up for lost time.
The train slowed down and stopped at Acalypha. Natsu slumped out of the train and onto the cold pavement, groaning in relief. Above him, Happy winced in sympathy.
“Do you remember where the mansion is?” Happy asked once Natsu had recovered from the train ride. Natsu looked uncertain and shrugged.
In the end, there was no other way but to explore the entire town. As Happy pointed out, Lucy’s dad had owned most of the land surrounding Acalypha, anyway, so they were bound to end up at the mansion at some point.
Asking passersby was of no use. Whenever they enquired about the Heartfilia mansion, they were met with blank stares and assertions that there was no such place in Acalypha. Who were the Heartfilias, anyway? Surely, no such family existed!
Which made sense, since technically, Lucy didn’t exist.
The reminder made Natsu’s blood boil and strengthened his desire to pound Zeref’s face into the ground.
Suddenly, Happy gasped. “Natsu, look!”
Natsu followed his gaze and his eyes widened. A few feet away from them, a huge barrier stretched into the sky, forming a dome like shape. It was covered with tiny, purple cracks that shimmered weirdly in the sunlight.
People walked by the barrier like it wasn’t even there. Natsu stared at them, openmouthed.
“Don’t they see it?” he whisper-shouted to Happy. “It’s right there !”
“Maybe they can’t because they don’t remember,” Happy suggested. “Maybe it’s visible only to those who have their memories.”
Happy flew to the barrier and poked it cautiously with his paw. When nothing happened, he stretched his limb through the barrier and flew right through when there was no resistance.
“…that was easy,” Natsu said. He was about to go through as well when Happy stopped him.
“Wait a sec!” Natsu froze in place, looking at his friend inquiringly. Happy approached the barrier from the inside and touched it.
It instantly blasted him back into the ground. Happy landed with a thump on the grass, groaning in pain.
“Happy!” Natsu shouted in panic and ran through the barrier and towards the Exceed. He knelt down beside Happy, running a hand over his fur cautiously. “Are you okay?”
“Aye,” Happy sat up, whimpering a little. “I don’t think we can get out, Natsu.”
“That’s fine,” Natsu growled. “I’ll pound this barrier into a dust if I have to. It won’t keep us here!”
Happy seemed encouraged by his determination. “Okay,” he nodded.
“Now, let’s go find Lucy!”
After coming down from the roof of the mansion, Lucy visited the spot where her mother’s grave was supposed to be. She didn’t visit the place often…in fact, she’d only visited it on July 7 th . It was just too painful, otherwise. She had no idea why she was feeling the longing to return to that spot again. Maybe it was due to the fact that whenever she was there, her mother’s spirit seemed to surround her and cloak her in its warmth.
Despite the negativity and bitter thoughts that had invaded her mind earlier, a strange sense of calm swept over Lucy as she knelt down on the ground. Something was different. The air smelt sweeter, somehow and Lucy could hear the singing of insects and the trees rustling in the wind.
Suddenly, she heard footsteps behind her.
Frowning, Lucy glanced up. Was her mind playing tricks on her? It had to be, surely…
She stood up and turned around. There was a figure running towards her in the distance, accompanied by a flying creature. Lucy’s heart gave a painful lurch as she registered the familiar shock of pink hair and the white, angel like wings.
No, it can’t be…
She was hallucinating, wasn’t she? It seemed the only reasonable explanation. They couldn’t be here, it wasn’t possible…
Happy was the first to reach her, slamming head first into her torso, sobbing wildly. Lucy stumbled backwards with a gasp, automatically hugging the Exceed to her chest. She buried her face in his warm fur, letting out a choked cry. He felt alive and real against her and it had been so long since she had touched a person, and-
Lucy looked up, tears streaming down her cheeks. Natsu had reached them, standing a few feet away, looking like his feet were rooted to the ground.
His hair was longer, Lucy noticed; the bangs hanging over his eyes. He was dressed differently, too, his waistcoat was crimson instead of blue. The long hair made him look older.
But he was still the same.
Keeping one hand wrapped around Happy, Lucy extended the other to Natsu (her right hand, where her guild mark used to be).
They both took a step forward at the same time and before Lucy knew it, she was in his arms, Happy crushed between them.
“ Natsu ,” Lucy gasped out between sobs, pressing her face to his chest. His skin felt like fire against hers and Lucy felt dizzy , as if she had inhaled some kind powerful drug or as if she was drunk, or…something.
(It was only later that it occurred to her that it was probably because it was this was the first time in a year that she’d made contact with any living person. The fact that it was Natsu probably only made the feeling stronger.)
Natsu pulled away momentarily, bracing his hands on her shoulders and scanned her anxiously, as if searching her for injuries. Lucy managed to smile through her tears (her first real smile, in months ) and clutched Happy to her chest tighter.
“I’m okay,” she reassured him, but he didn’t look convinced.
“I saw you in my dream,” he said. “And you didn’t look okay then, Lucy.”
The sound of her name on his lips made Lucy’s heart feel like it was breaking and mending at the same time. She closed her eyes briefly, and then something he said came back to her.
“The dream?” she asked incredulously. “Wait, that was real?”
“Of course it was, you weirdo.”
His words were so familiar that Lucy couldn’t help but laugh, her head falling against his shoulder. Natsu wrapped his arm around her, the heat of his palm burning into her skin.
Happy finally protested at being squashed between them, and they parted reluctantly.
“How did you find me?” Lucy asked wonderingly. She kept Natsu’s hands in hers, afraid that if she let go, he would disappear all together. “In fact, how did you guys even remember me?”
“We started having these dreams,” Happy began, glancing at Natsu. “And little flashes of memory…and then one day it all just…came back. Then we started researching-“
“You did research?” Lucy asked, laughter in her voice. Natsu looked offended.
“It’s not that weird,” he grumbled and it all felt so wonderfully familiar, the teasing and the bantering.
“So, anyway,” Happy continued. “We figured out that this would be your prison…since you hated this place and all,” he looked apologetic when Lucy tensed. “And we came here.” He finished.
Lucy looked down at her feet. “You were happy,” she mumbled. “I know you were, Zeref told me you’d be. And you gave that all up.”
“ Luce, ” Natsu tightens his grip around her fingers. “We couldn’t be happy without you. We couldn’t be happy knowing you were somewhere out there, all alone. I mean, would you have been?”
Lucy shook her head, feeling her eyes blur with tears. “I thought I’d never see any of you again,” she whispered. “I can’t believe you guys are actually here.”
Natsu grinned crookedly. “You’d better believe it, Luce. You’re not getting rid of us again.”
Lucy let out a shaky laugh. Then she released Natsu’s hand and instant reached up to touch his face, stroking across his jaw line. “I love you,” she said, quietly. A year ago, she would’ve probably been too embarrassed or shy to say it, but now, it felt secondary. She’d regretted not telling him for so long and she wasn’t going to waste another moment.
Natsu’s eyes went wide. He didn’t say anything. Instead he hugged her again, his hand cradling the back of her head tenderly. Lucy nestled into his chest, drawing in a deep breath and shutting her eyes.
She felt him press a soft, feather-light kiss to her hair.
Something hot and boiling curled in her belly and then suddenly she felt like flames were shooting through her body, fierce and unrelenting. The air around her sizzled and Natsu’s body seemed to glow fire hot against hers. Lucy stumbled back with a gasp, landing on the ground. She looked at Natsu dazedly, seeing that he had fallen, as well.
Above them, the cracks in the barrier expanded until the barrier suddenly shattered, purple light raining down from the sky. The atmosphere suddenly seemed brighter and Lucy clutched at her chest, feeling as if a heavy, oppressive burden had been lifted from it.
“Wha-what happened?” Natsu looked shaken as he rose to his feet, helping Lucy up. Happy looked excited.
“Natsu, I think the spell broke,” he whispered.
“ What ?” Lucy couldn’t believe her ears. Them finding her was enough of a miracle, but this …
She looked down at her right hand.
The Fairy Tail guild mark was again etched into her skin, the pink of the stamp bright against her skin.
Lucy looked up at Natsu shakily. He was smiling at her.
“Look down.” He said.
She did. What she saw almost made her fall over, nearly dizzy with joy.
The pouch containing her keys was lying at her feet.
Lucy picked it up with trembling fingers, caressing the ten keys carefully (a sob rose in her throat when she saw that Aquarius’ key was whole) and pressed them to her cheek, unable to hold back her tears. The cold metal warmed against her skin, as if her keys were welcoming her.
“Are you okay, Lucy?” Happy asked tentatively.
Lucy smiled at him. “Never been better,” she promised. “I…I just don’t understand. How did the spell break?”
Natsu shrugged his shoulders, as if to say ‘does it matter how?’. But Happy had an idea.
“I think it might have been the One Magic,” Happy said slowly. “Lucy, you told Natsu that you loved him and then he kissed you. That must have broken the spell, right?”
Lucy felt her cheeks flush. In all of my stories, it was always a kiss on the lips that did it…
“For that to have worked, Natsu would have had to love me back,” she muttered. Then, she looked up into Natsu’s equally red face.
“ Oh .”
Happy cackled with glee. “You guys are such idiots!”
Natsu sputtered in indignation. “Says the guy who can’t even get Carla to notice him!”
“ Hey !”
“ Boys ,” Lucy sighed in fond exasperation.
God, she had missed this.
“Now what?” she wondered, clipping her pouch onto her belt.
There was a gleam in Natsu’s eye. “ Now , we go and kick Zeref’s ass. For real, this time.”
Lucy grinned. “Sounds like a plan. Oh, wait…”
She ran back to her mother’s grave and knelt in front of it, brushing her fingers over the soil. “Bye, mom. I’ll see you again someday,” she murmured. “And…I guess I was wrong. Hoping wasn’t useless.”
She smiled, feeling deliciously lighthearted. Then, she stood up and turned to Natsu and Happy, smiling brightly at them.
“Let’s go home.”